Son, Don’t Check Your Brain at the Door

Studying

Have you ever heard the saying, “God has no grandchildren?” Our kids can not ride into heaven on our coattails. They have to choose a personal relationship with God all on their own, and they have to develop that relationship independently of us. But for this generation especially — a generation born into the Information Age, where answers (both true and false) to every conceivable question on planet earth are at their fingertips — truth is no easy thing to establish. This generation demands evidence. They want hard, tangible facts before they are willing to hitch their ride to any one bandwagon of belief. And that is a beautiful thing because if we can give our kids the tools to find cold, hard evidence for their faith, we can be confident about two things:

  1. They won’t be shaken when they are attacked for their beliefs.
  2. And they will be strong witnesses to their generation.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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I Wish I Had This For My Older Kids

Passport2Purity

When I saw the opportunity to review FamilyLife’s Passport 2 Purity, I jumped on it! I have an 11-year-old boy, and I knew this would be perfect timing for him. My older kids have had “the talk,” but they have all been very respectful about not sharing that information with the younger siblings. So I was pretty sure my Sammy didn’t know much about this stuff. (I was right!)

The Passport 2 Purity program is designed help prepare your child for their journey into adolescence. Let’s face it, the world they are walking into is much different than when we were young. Their’s is a world of sexting, cyber bullying, online stalking and perhaps the most blatant moral defiance in the history of our country. Innocence is under attack, and you cannot win the battle with a single awkward talk or a strict set of rules. The only real defense for your child is a strong relationship with you and with God.

FamilyLife developed Passport 2 Purity to assist parents in building heart-to-heart communication with their preteens, while laying a foundation of purity that will prepare them for the potentially turbulent years ahead. It is actually designed to be done as a mother-daughter or father-son team, over the course of a weekend getaway, but we broke all the rules.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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From Offense to Hatred — How to Stay Unoffended

Skyler

Offense can easily spiral out of control and turn into hatred, and hatred is murder’s twin (I’ll show you what I mean in a moment). In the last blog, Jody and I talked about the process of forgiveness. Left unchecked, unforgiveness can take us down a dark road. Take a look:

Stage 1 — “Unforgiveness”

This is the first stage in the downward spiral of offense. This stage is most clearly marked by keeping a record of wrongs. So whenever you catch yourself rehearsing a conflict and feeling the anger and offense rising up, it’s a red flag.

Once you recognize the red flag, you have a choice:

  • You can admit that you’re being tempted to slip back into “unforgiveness” and then make the choice once again to walk through the process of forgiving someone that we outlined in Wednesday’s Post.
  • Or you can give your thoughts over to the offense, rehearsing the situation in your mind over and over, thinking of what you could have and should have said and spiraling deeper and deeper into bitterness.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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How Do I Forgive When I Don’t Feel Like It?

Skyler and Sydney Serious

A while back, we  posted The 6 A’s of Apology and The 4 Promises of Forgiveness, and someone posed a question on our Facebook page. She asked how you forgive someone who isn’t really sorry. It’s a great question, but it assumes that forgiveness is something that the other person somehow earns.

Forgiveness really has nothing to do with the other person. On the contrary, staying offended is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. If left unchecked, unforgiveness turns to bitterness, and there is a great body of scientific evidence showing that bitterness leads to illness — both physical and psychological. According to Dr. Charles Raison, “The data that negative mental states cause heart problems is just stupendous. The data is just as established as smoking, and the the size of the effect is the same.”

The word forgive is a verb. It’s something you do, not necessarily something you feel. It’s an act of will. You decide to forgive. You choose to forgive, regardless of what the other person says or does.

Forgiveness does NOT mean that what the other person did was okay. It does not mean they were somehow correct or justified in their actions. In fact, that’s why we tell parents not to let their kids say, “It’s okay” when someone apologizes to them. Instead, we encourage them to say, “I forgive you,” because it’s not okay, but we can still forgive them.

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with nine kids between them (ages 4 to 28) and #10 due in August. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to parent on purpose.

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“Saving Christmas” Movie Review and Giveaway

Saving Christmas

Christmas is just six weeks away! But for many Christians, there’s an internal struggle with this celebration. For some it may just be a few fleeting thoughts that give them pause. But for others, it can be a raging conflict between their desire to honor and glorify God and the Western cultural expressions of Christmas.

Is it okay to participate in all the holiday hoopla? Should we be surrounding the Christmas tree with so many presents? Isn’t that a participation in the gross commercialization of Christmas that has stolen the meaning of this high holy day? Should we even have a tree? It’s just a throwback to an old pagan tradition, right? And what about Santa? A mythological character who makes a list and checks it twice, who is somehow aware whether every kid is naughty or nice — that sounds a whole lot like God Himself. Isn’t Santa somehow blasphemous? Even the very date of this celebration is suspect. No one knows when Jesus was born. Didn’t the church steal December 25th from the pagan rituals of the Winter Solstice?

It’s not that Christians are trying to be argumentative or disparaging. For the most part, even staunch anti-Christmas believers are ultimately motivated by a desire to honor Jesus. They want their worship to be pure, in spirit and in truth. But the real question is this: Do all the traditional Christmas celebration trappings pervert our worship? Or — could it be possible — that they actually enhance it?

Where is Christ in the modern Christmas? That is precisely what Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas intends to answer.

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with nine kids between them (ages 4 to 28) and #10 due in August. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to parent on purpose.

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Our Phone Call With Kirk Cameron

kirk_cameron

We were so excited when we found out that we were going to be included on a conference call with Kirk Cameron.

I have to confess (Jenni speaking) that I was a HUGE fan back in the 80s when he played Mike Seaver on the TV sitcom Growing Pains. Like most girls my age, I adored his impish character and swooned over his fetching smile, but now, more than 20 years later, I am much more impressed with the man Kirk Cameron has become.

The polar opposite of on-screen ladies’ man Mike Seaver, Kirk Cameron has matured into a devoted husband and father and an outspoken Christian leader, who has devoted much of his adult career to speaking, teaching and making films that spread the gospel message.

He has a new movie coming out on November 14th, and we had the opportunity to hear his take on Christmas, child-rearing, homeschooling and of course, the new movie.

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with nine kids between them (ages 4 to 28) and #10 due in August. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to parent on purpose.

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Okay…So Now What?

Originally posted in April 2011 at A Gentle Answer Ministries 

Early Intervention specialists flooded our life with eleven therapy appointments a week. Occasionally they’d suggest we meet with a neurologist, but I just thought it was a casual recommendation. As educators and social workers, they were not allowed to offer medical opinions. In other words, they couldn’t come right out say they suspected Griffyn was autistic.  So truly, I had no clue.

When someone first said the word autism, it sounded ridiculous to me. I had never met a 2-year-old autistic child. My only exposure to it was from the movie “Rainman” with Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise. Certainly my two-year-old was nothing like that. But as it turns out, the only reason he was nothing like Rainman was because he was a baby and Rainman was an adult. Had the movie shown Rainman at two, the character might have behaved exactly like my son. Now, at 13, he’s very much like Rainman.

As the months of therapy followed, I noticed more and more how profoundly different Griffyn was from other kids his age. One day, I asked one of his therapists, “You don’t think Griffyn is autistic, right?” Silence, and then a slow, hesitating response.  “Well…the thought has crossed my mind.” What? I was stunned!

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the day we got the diagnosis. It was March 17, 2000, a cold and rainy day. The doctor spent a good half-hour just observing Griffyn, and then he conducted an extensive interview with me. When he was done, he leaned back in his big leather chair, crossed his legs, and closed the portfolio containing his observations of my precious little boy.

Perhaps he’d said the same words a dozen times a week. I was told he was one of the most sought after experts in the tri-state region. Maybe the repetition of this experience made him forget that all my hopes and dreams were sitting on the floor of his office that morning. It’s not that he was apathetic or even unkind, he just seemed completely unaware of the fear that was squeezing my heart. At that moment, it seemed as if my entire life hinged on the next few words that would come out of this man’s mouth. Perhaps in some ways that turned out to be true; I just didn’t realize then that there was nothing to fear.

The doctor was entirely aloof as he stretched his arms up, crossed his hands behind his head and assumed a position of relaxation. His work was done. “Well,” he said with a certain finality, “the diagnosis is clear. This is autism.”

In a moment I felt as if an avalanche had dumped on me, the weight of it dulling my senses. Had it lasted more than a fraction of a second, I would have been consumed with panic, clawing desperately through the swirling thoughts that filled my mind and clouded my ability to respond.

But in that fraction of a second, something amazing happened. God, the Creator of the universe, the very One who knit my son together in the depths of my womb, reached out with His amazing grace and poured it over me a like gentle waterfall, washing away the fear and the hurt and the desperation. In my own strength, left to my own thoughts, I would have crumbled. That fleeting moment of panic let me know that I was not able to manage this on my own. But in the power of God’s grace, I was suddenly bathed in peace. This is what the book of Philippians is referring to when it describes “the peace that passes all understanding.”

I breathed in His strength and leaned forward, and in that pivotal moment I looked the doctor soberly in the eye. God had pointed me in a new direction, and with great determination and focus, I said, “Okay…so now what?”

When our children are first born, they hold so much promise and mystery, and in our flesh it is tempting to imagine their future. When our son was diagnosed with autism, God showed me that I would need to let go of my ideas of what I thought he should be. Until I fully released my agenda into God’s hands, I would not be able to receive all the blessings that God intended to bring through this special child. And although God had guarded my heart and mind against despair, there was still a process that had to happen, a shifting and refocusing.

One morning a few years ago, as I was writing at my desk, my daughter brought me a 3-D picture to see if I could find the image. I held it close to my nose and let my eyes relax. As I slowly pulled it away, the image became clear. In relaxing, even allowing my eyes to go blurry for a time, my perspective was transformed. Once my focus shifted, the new picture was easy to spot. Instead of seeing the mish-mosh of seemingly random patterns, I could clearly see the crisp outline of a horse emerge from the page.

What a great metaphor! When we relax and allow God to refocus the eyes of our heart, a new image clearly emerges. Things may be confusing at first—blurry—but soon the events and circumstances of our life don’t seem so random, and instead of asking why, we are left asking how. Instead of crying out to God for answers, we cry out to God for wisdom and direction.

During my season of refocusing on Griffyn’s diagnosis, God gave me this verse: “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”  (John 12:24) Once I let go of the child I thought I had, the one I’d created in my own imagination, I could open myself to so many new possibilities. God has so many riches in store for those who are willing let their own agendas die and trust Him for the harvest.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Quick Journaling Tips

Do you know someone who has always wanted to journal but just couldn’t quite figure out where to start or exactly what to write?

There are great articles out there on the power of journaling, so we won’t get into that today, but we’ve got two quick ideas that can get you and your kids started.

First (and this is the fun part), head to the store and pick out a new, fresh journal. Get one you really LOVE! Then find a good home for it in your house – maybe on your night stand, on the coffee table, kitchen counter – where ever you think you’ll take a few minutes to write everyday. Help your kids find a place to put theirs too. And don’t forget to have a pen close by. I’ve got two – one in a basket next to my bed, and one in my purse.

Idea #1 – Dream Journal    When you wake up in the morning (or maybe even in the middle of the night), take a few minutes to remember and write down your dreams. Ask God to reveal what they mean.

Idea #2 – Prayer Journal     Spend a few minutes every day writing down your prayers. Thank God for all the great things happening in your life, and write down all of your petitions.

Here’s a key to valuable journaling – every few months, go back and read the pages carefully. You might want to sit at the computer and type out any observations (another form of journaling).

Hindsight is journaling’s great appraiser. All the value becomes evident over time, when you can see how God may have been speaking to you in dreams, and when you understand why certain prayers may have gone unanswered. In time, you and your kids will also have something of a record of what was happening in your life and how you responded to it.

Happy journaling!

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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